The Locker Room

September 7, 2010

Brevard, NC: One of the coolest small towns in America

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 10:07 PM says Budget Travel Magazine. Brevard received the third highest number of votes in the BT's online poll.

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New Carolina Journal Online exclusive

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 4:42 PM

The latest Carolina Journal Online exclusive features Daren Bakst's research into the relative costs of solar and nuclear power. Surprise! Nuclear is still cheaper.

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The Gore School: Is it Contaminated?

Posted by Daren Bakst at 2:51 PM

LA is opening up a $75.5 million environmental-themed school that bears the name of Al Gore (and Rachel Carson).

Here's the funny part: There is serious concern that the school is on a contaminated site.

From Yahoo:

Now this bit of cruel irony: The Los Angeles-area Carson-Gore Academy of Environmental Sciences, named after Gore and pioneering environmentalist Rachel Carson , was built atop an environmentally contaminated piece of real estate, the Los Angeles Times reports. Some are now raising concerns that the $75.5 million school -- which sits across the street from an oil well -- may pose long-term health risks to its students, faculty and staff, as the groundwater beneath it is contaminated by chemicals.

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UCLA business school to skip government money

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 2:13 PM

UCLA's Anderson School of Management will give up government cash that pays 20% of the school's bills. It will find private money to fill the gap. Some statements from school administrators show a realistic commitment to great education.

“The UC system is arguably the greatest public university system in the world,” she [Dean Judy Olian] said. “But we’re not going to keep it that way with the old model.”

“If the state wants to assure its future leaders [that it can educate them] it either has to pay for it...or it has to allow us through our own resourcefulness to do it ourselves.”

That is a message Tom Ross and the UNC Board of Governors might take to heart as North Carolina's public universities prepare their budgets.

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Too many government officials treat targeted tax breaks like a guaranteed lottery jackpot

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 1:46 PM

Joe Coletti makes that case in his latest Spotlight report. Just as a person buying a Powerball ticket goes into the process with at least some knowledge of the odds of success or failure, Joe argues that state and local government officials seeking targeted incentives need to consider the odds that tax breaks and grants will make any difference in landing a company.

Joe offers more details here and in the video clip below.

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While the world burns, Obama's on vacation

Posted by David N. Bass at 1:20 PM

POLITICO has a nice retrospective of Obama's vacations during the summer.

Obama's message to the American people: don't let the Gulf oil spill, 9.6 percent unemployment, home sales way down in July, etc., get you down! It certainly hasn't me!

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Facepalm, Obama style

Posted by David N. Bass at 1:00 PM

Obama mixes his "blame Wall Street" and "blame Bush" hats, with predictable results.

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The "tuition cap" in the UNC system

Posted by George Leef at 11:09 AM

In today's Pope Center article Jay Schalin examines the tuition cap on the UNC system. Four years ago, the cap was set at 6.5 percent, but that was a Rule Made to be Broken (Jay's title); this year, tuition increases throughout the system averaged 23 percent.

"While the previous cap was intended to avoid large swings in tuition increases to make planning easier for students," he writes, "the new proposal is more directed at smoothing out revenue expectations for -- you guessed it -- campus administrators."

That isn't at all surprising. Decision-making within our higher education system (not just UNC) is usually meant to make things better for those employed by the system (professor and administrators). Effects on students and taxpayers are of little consequence.

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A great read on Krugman, FDR, and stimulus

Posted by John Hood at 11:07 AM

Amity Shlaes may be picking on a weakling in this response to Paul Krugman’s Labor Day column extolling government-stimulus silliness. But it’s still well worth your time, because Amity takes you through some critical details about how the later stages of the New Deal economic program played out. A key passage:

In 1938, the political tide began to turn against Roosevelt. In the spring of 1938, lawmakers gutted his undistributed profits tax and dropped the graduated corporate income tax in spite of Roosevelt’s objections. Their bill became law without his signature. In the midterm Congressional elections of 1938, Democrats lost 81 seats, not enough to lose control of the House, but enough to chasten them. Bored and frustrated with the New Deal, FDR turned to foreign policy, an area to which he was better suited in any case. The Supreme Court ruled against sit down strikes, limiting the scope of union power. Washington’s war on business was suspended, in part because the president knew he would now need the same industrial giants he had prosecuted if he was going to arm the U.S. and Britain. Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, who had personally sicced attorneys on his predecessor Andrew Mellon, now put a sign on his desk to signal friendship for business. The sign read “Does it contribute to recovery?” The policy mix of the late 1930s was far from ideal, but the direction was enough to cheer everyone.

The real question is not how war spending ended the Depression. It is why the Depression lasted so long. Spending, in any case, didn’t have much to do with the Depression’s end. As Dr. [Christine] Romer herself summed up in that 1991 paper, “it is hard to argue that changes in government spending caused by the war were a major factor in the recovery. The recovery was nearly complete before the war had a noticeable fiscal impact.”

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Petition opposing the Wake school board majority

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 10:47 AM

Mr. Robert Grant wants to get 21,670 individuals to sign his petition. He has 21,522 to go.

So far, the petition has garnered national and international attention:

The AHADI Community from Kericho, Kenya
Chris >^..^< from Jersey City Heights, NJ
Mya Buttreeks from Cary, NC
Rev Bookburn from Collingswood, NJ
Lena Rehberger from Grebenhain, Germany

Good luck, Mr. Grant!

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Stop spending! Stop spending! Stop spending!

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 10:10 AM

Carmen Reinhart and Vincent Reinhart (yes, they are married) say history points to a long period of slow growth as the US economy retrenches.

We present evidence that the decade of relative prosperity prior to the fall was importantly fueled by an expansion in credit and rising leverage that spans about 10 years; it is followed by a lengthy period of retrenchment that most often only begins after the crisis and lasts almost as long as the credit surge.

Another reason to reform state government now so it spends less and borrows less.

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Italian Think Tank Releases Joint Study on Nuclear and Solar Power

Posted by Daren Bakst at 09:55 AM

Last week, JLF released its version of a joint report with Istituto Bruno Leoni that shows why NC WARN's study claiming solar power is less expensive than nuclear power is deeply flawed.  Nuclear power is far less expensive than solar power.

This week, Istituto Bruno Leoni has released its version of the report, which is slightly more in-depth (recommended for those interested in more details).  Here's the press release, which states:

“Forse un giorno l’energia solare potrà competere con quella nucleare - concludono Bakst e Stagnaro - e allora assumerà un valore reale per i consumatori, ma fino ad allora, i politici non dovrebbero imporre il fotovoltaico, perché ciò va a discapito dell’economicità e affidabilità del sistema elettrico.”

If that isn't clear and compelling to you, I don't know what will be.

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Too much spending is the common theme in elections

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 09:52 AM

Grover Norquist via Peggy Noonan:

What should Republicans focus on? "Spending per se is a palpable issue. The central question is not only taxes or the deficit, it's spending, and you can see this in polls. . . . There is not a Democrat who can say, 'I was not part of the spending explosion that threatens you and your country.' It's the one thing they can't defend themselves against. They don't want to stop spending."

Mr. Norquist sums the matter up: "The big issue, and people know this, is the explosion of federal spending that is damaging our economy and threatening our future."

Gov. Perdue seems to recognize this as she tries to create a budget without extending the temporary sales tax. I offered some free advice in the Winston-Salem Journal.

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New N.C. Court of Appeals opinions released

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 09:16 AM

Among the latest batch of opinions the N.C. Court of Appeals released this morning:

  • A unanimous three-judge panel affirmed a final decision in a certificate-of-need dispute between Fresenius Medical Care of Brunswick County and TRC-Leland over a new dialysis facility.
  • A unanimous three-judge panel affirmed a state Industrial Commission ruling against Wake County public schools in a worker's compensation dispute involving an employee who stumbled while walking into an elementary school workroom in 2007. 
  • A unanimous three-judge panel affirmed a lower court ruling in favor of Duke Energy in a Gaston County case involving a driver who had sued the utility after driving her car into one of its utility poles. The suit focused on the driver's complaint about the location of the utility pole.
  • A unanimous three-judge panel affirmed a lower court ruling in favor of Duke Energy in a Graham County easement dispute.
  • A unanimous three-judge panel affirmed a lower court ruling in favor of the Metropolitan Sewerage District of Buncombe County in a dispute involving a sledder killed in 2005 after her inner tube hit an above-ground manhole.
  • A unanimous three-judge panel affirmed a lower court ruling from Iredell County in favor of a homeowners' association and against property owners who built a pool house and "tiki hut" larger than the association permitted.

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Barry Saunders on busing in Wake County: A history

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 08:37 AM

January 12, 2010: Diversity is not a "cure-all"

January 19, 2010: Huzzah, diversity!

September 7, 2010: Diversity isn't all we need

September 14, 2010: [Predictions, anyone?]

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Latest dispatches from the campaign trail

Posted by David N. Bass at 07:45 AM

  • Democrats, including 7th Congressional District Rep. Mike McIntyre, are running away from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

  • The N&O: GOP won’t be out-organized.

  • State Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake, holds a narrow four-point lead over Republican Steve Henion.

  • Public Policy Polling suggests that Perdue, Hagan, and Obama stay off the campaign trail.

  • Hagan 39th richest member of Congress, according to The Hill.

  • Karl Rove to speak in Chapel Hill Sept. 20.

  • Poll shows unaffiliated voters leaving the Democrats.

  • The Charlotte Observer: Candidates' schedules aren’t debatable.

  • Speaking of the Observer, the newspaper profiles candidates around the Queen City here and here.

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AFP reminds Fayetteville crowd that November is coming

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:39 AM

The Americans for Prosperity "November Is Coming" bus continues to roll through North Carolina today.

Becki Gray will provide updates throughout the day at

Meanwhile, enjoy the 90-minute video below of last night's AFP rally at the Crown Exposition Center in Fayetteville. Speakers include AFP North Carolina state director Dallas Woodhouse, Marianne Suarez of the Civitas Institute, Becki Gray, and former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory.

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‘It was sort of fake’

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:32 AM

The most recent TIME devotes four pages to an article from Michael Scherer discussing reasons for President Obama’s dwindling popularity:

In more confiding moments, aides admit that the peak of Obama's popularity may have been inflated, a fleeting result of elation at the prospect of change and national pride in electing the first African-American President. As one White House aide puts it, "It was sort of fake."

But while these explanations may be valid, they are also incomplete. A sense of disappointment, bordering on betrayal, has been growing across the country, especially in moderate states like Indiana, where people now openly say they didn't quite understand the President they voted for in 2008. The fear most often expressed is that Obama is taking the country somewhere they don't want to go. "We bought what he said. He offered a lot of hope," says Fred Ferlic, an Obama voter and orthopedic surgeon in South Bend who has since soured on his choice. Ferlic talks about the messy compromises in health care reform, his sense of an inhospitable business climate and the growth of government spending under Obama. "He's trying to Europeanize us, and the Europeans are going the other way," continues Ferlic, a former Democratic campaign donor who plans to vote Republican this year. "The entire American spirit is being broken."

Perhaps the president needs a little subliminal help.

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Not the best example

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:31 AM

Joe Klein makes an interesting argument in the latest TIME for an increased use of “deliberative democracy” in public life.

It ought to raise a red flag, though, when the first example he cites is the budget process used in the coastal district of Zeguo … in communist China. One suspects that “getting rid of authoritarian one-party rule” is not one of the democratic options upon which people are permitted to deliberate.

Perhaps an even worse example follows:

In Texas, [Stanford professor James Fishkin] ran a deliberative-democracy process for a consortium of utilities, from 1996 to 2007, which gradually transformed the state from last to first in the use of wind power. "Over that time, the percentage of people — and these were stakeholders, utility customers — willing to pay more for wind went from 54% to 84%," he says.

Wind power? Really? Where were the experts explaining its true impact?

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If you didn’t already worry about federal bureaucrats poking their noses into the financial sector …

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:29 AM

… and you have plenty of reasons to be concerned, but here’s another: the new federal Office of Financial Research:

The research office is only now beginning to attract attention for the unusually strong powers Congress granted it to force financial companies to turn over confidential information and help spot potential market blowups. In a nod to its abilities to peer into the uncharted depths of the financial system, lobbyists are calling it the CIA of financial regulators.

The analogy may not be far off. Housed within the Treasury, the office will have both data collection and analysis arms. The law says it can demand "all data necessary" from financial companies, including banks, hedge funds, private equity firms, and brokerages. That would include previously secret details such as who the counterparties are for credit default swaps and information on individual loans such as interest rate and maturity. If companies aren't forthcoming, the director of the office can issue subpoenas. Providing the staff support to the new Financial Stability Oversight Council—and holding a nonvoting seat on the council, which will monitor the banking system for risks—the research office can require companies to submit "periodic reports" to help it determine which firms to keep tabs on.

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Blair on Keynes

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:28 AM

A blurb in Bloomberg Business Week labels Britain’s former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair a “surprise Tory,” or Conservative, for the following item within his new memoir:
The most startling section deals with Blair's rejection of "the whole package of massive Keynesian deficit spending," as he writes in the book. "If governments don't tackle deficits, the bill is footed by taxpayers, who fear that big deficits mean big taxes, both of which reduce confidence, investment, and purchasing power."

Perhaps Blair has spent some of his retirement years reading Roy Cordato’s thoughts on Keynes.

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Back-door efforts to cut carbon emissions

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:27 AM

If you welcomed the news that Congress has backed away from a cap-and-trade plan this year, the latest Bloomberg Business Week gives you reason to return to your gloom.

The magazine reports on Environmental Protection Agency chief Lisa Jackson’s efforts to restrict carbon use through provisions in the Clean Air Act.

Even she agrees that regulation is inferior to legislation. It took a 2007 Supreme Court ruling to clarify that the 1970 law gave the agency the power to regulate carbon at all. One of Jackson's first moves as EPA administrator was to take up the court's invitation and declare carbon an environmental threat. Within weeks, she followed that with rules requiring automakers to boost fuel economy 5 percent a year and average 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016.

Those rules, effective Jan. 2, 2011, will mark the U.S.'s first-ever nationwide limits on greenhouse gas pollution. Now, having taken that step, Jackson by law must clamp down on other carbon sources. In an economic downturn, she hopes to avoid writing detailed diktats for small businesses, schools, hospitals, and apartment buildings—many of which emit enough carbon that broad-based rules could force them to install expensive equipment. That could be politically explosive in a midterm election year, letting Republicans charge that Obama is strangling the economy.

Instead, Jackson has moved cautiously by offering what she calls a "tailored" approach that exempts mom-and-pop dry cleaners and pizza parlors and initially regulates only power plants and oil refineries. And among those, only new or expanding plants need comply.

Even so, business groups, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are taking Jackson to court, saying she has no authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

Regular readers of this forum will not be surprised.

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New Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:15 AM

The latest Carolina Journal Online exclusive features Anthony Greco's report on Raleigh City Council's decision — as early as today — on a controversial route for high-speed rail through the capital city. 

John Hood's Daily Journal focuses on North Carolina's poor performance in a recent national ranking of urban interstate congestion.

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